There has been a great focus recently on “going green”, or reducing the environmental impact of various practices by making more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible decisions. The potential to help protect the environment so as to better sustain natural resources for both current and future generations extends across every imaginable field, including dentistry.
Green dentistry specifically focuses on reducing the environmental impact of various dental practices, while still meeting the needs of patients. A single dental practice can generate quite a bit of waste and pollution and use a lot of energy and water, but through green dentistry various efforts are made to reduce waste and pollution and save energy and water. It is also very high-tech, as many of the innovations that are at the forefront of dental technology are not only better for patients, but for the planet as well.
Practicing Green Dentistry
Best Smiles practices green dentistry through:
- Geothermal heating and cooling. Roughly half of the solar energy our planet receives is absorbed into the ground, allowing the ground to maintain a constant temperature just below the surface all year round. Geothermal heating and cooling systems use this constant, stable temperature from the planet in order to regulate the temperature of buildings, rather than using other energy sources. At Best Smiles, a heat pump circulates water from underground wells in order to provide appropriate levels of heat during the cooler months of the year and cooling during the warmer months of the year. Additionally, the hot water used in the office is created by the heat that is given off by the geothermal pumps.
- Electronic charts and records. One of the best ways to go green is to reduce or even eliminate the use of paper. At Best Smiles the patient forms, records, charts, treatment plans, ledgers and notes are all stored on a secure, centralized server so that there are only a few paper files to be maintained.
- Digital x-rays. On an average, dental offices using traditional x-ray film produce roughly twenty-eight million liters of toxic x-ray fixer and nearly five million pieces of lead foil each year. Lead waste that ends up in topsoil can remain there for as long as two thousand years, which means that over time the amount of lead waste poisoning our planet continues to build. With digital x-rays, however, there is no need for any toxic x-ray fixer or lead foil, and patients are exposed to about ninety percent less radiation.
- Non-toxic construction materials. The Best Smiles facility was constructed with the use of low or no-VOC materials in wallpaper adhesives, paints, vinyl and carpets. Furthermore, natural stone countertops have been used throughout the office, and eco-friendly disinfectants that are as effective as hospital-grade disinfectants are used wherever possible and prudent.
- Steam sterilization processes. Steam sterilization, rather than chemical-based sterilization, is an effective alternative for non-toxic infection control. This system does not require ventilation for chemical vapors nor is it harmful to humans or the environment. Furthermore, the Hydrim machine itself, which is used to wash, rinse and disinfect dental instruments, uses only small amounts of water to perform its job effectively.
- Amalgam separation. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, approximately fifty percent of the mercury that ends up in wastewater treatment facilities comes from dental offices. In order to protect against this, Best Smiles has installed special traps and suction tubes that prevent amalgam from entering the plumbing system. These particles are filtered out of the water and disposed of in an environmentally safe way, thereby helping to protect the local municipal water system.
- Efficient use of energy and water. On average, one dental practice uses roughly fifty-seven thousand gallons of water per year. However, this is not actually necessary in order to perform high-tech, high-quality dentistry. Energy and water efficiency helps to reduce waste, and can be easy to accomplish. At Best Smiles, energy efficient compact fluorescent and LED lighting, motion detectors, energy saving computers and printers, electronic timer systems, dusk-to-dawn sensors, an energy-star washer and dryer, and low-flow faucets, dental bowls and toilets all help to reduce waste.
- Cotton towels instead of paper towels. Cotton towels are used whenever and wherever possible, including for hand drying in the bathroom and after dental procedures.
- Recycling. Best Smiles is committed to recycling cardboard, plastics and paper, ink and toner cartridges, and even broken dental instruments.
Best Smiles patients benefit enormously from our office’s green practices as not only do they receive the most high-tech, professional, efficient and effective dental care, but they receive it in an environmentally-friendly facility that protects their own and the planet’s health.